This article will contain spoilers for the Arrow (2012-) television show. Don't get on this Dark Archer's bad side, or you'll have an arrow through you before you can even say sorry. Malcolm Merlyn is both one of Green Arrow's most dangerous enemies and his most untrustworthy ally. Played by the always entertaining John Barrowman (the charming Jack Harkness of Doctor Who and Torchwood), Merlyn is a fan-favorite villain who always has a trick up his sleeve.
After killing the man he believed murdered his wife, Merlyn trained with the League of Assassins before becoming their target. Not only does he survive their numerous attempts on his life, he ends up becoming the new Ra's al Ghul, leading the group people who wanted him dead. His archery skills more than rival Green Arrow's and Merlyn is also an expert swordsman, martial artist, and such a skilled liar that any politician green would be green with envy. Think you know everything about this well-dressed man? Here are 15 Facts You Didn't Know About Malcolm Merlyn.
Merlyn performs even more impressive feats in his very first comic book appearance than he ever does in Arrow. Sure, he catches arrows, can hack the Arrowcave with ease, and survives having his hand chopped off, but in the comics he's able to take down Superman - you know, the symbol for truth and justice who has super strength, super speed, and just about every other power with the word "super" in front of it - and the Atom at the same time!
Created by Mike Friedrich, Neal Adams, and Dick Dillin in 1971, Merlyn first appeared in Justice League of America #94. On an assassination mission for the League of Assassins, Merlyn first disables Clark Kent's new van. Then, he faces off against both Superman and the Atom. He's able to knock both of them unconscious with one of his special trick arrows. He definitely started off his comic book career with a big bang... unfortunately it didn't stay that way for long.
Also during his first appearance in Justice League of America #94, Merlyn nearly did the unthinkable: his arrow nearly ended the life of the Dark Knight! Originally sent by the League of Assassins to kill Batman, Merlyn nearly succeeds. After taking down Superman and Atom he has Batman in his crosshairs, ready to deliver a killing blow! Unfortunately for Merlyn, the arrow that would have ended Batman's life is blocked by Green Arrow.
Mentioned to have won a fight against Green Arrow in the past, Merlyn attempts to fight him once again. However, he finds the hero has surpassed his skills and must admit defeat. He does manage to escape, but after failing to defeat Green Arrow and kill Batman, Merlyn finds himself on the run from the League of Assassins, who don't take too kindly to his mess-up. His becoming a target of the League of Assassins mirrors his relationship with them in the Arrow television show.
Back when Merlyn was in the good graces of the League of Assassins, he trained several important figures in Batman's world (ironic considering he was originally supposed to kill him). He served as one of Cassandra Cain's tutors, teaching her archery. The original version of Cassandra was trained to fight since she was a child. Cassandra was being taught to be an assassin, but ran away after killing her first target. She would go on to save Commissioner Gordon's life, proving herself to Batman and becoming the new Batgirl.
Merlyn also taught Ra's al Ghul's grandson, Damian Wayne, who is the child of Talia al Ghul and Bruce Wayne. He's clearly a skilled teacher, as Damian is able to hit a target dead-center while being blindfolded. His teaching is so effective that Merlyn comments how Damian may even be able to teach him a thing or two. But like it's said in Arrow, you can only truly surpass someone who is your teacher, which is why Arrow and Thea are both trained by Merlyn in order to defeat his own teacher, Ra's al Ghul.
His real name in Arrow may be Malcolm Merlyn, but this was never his name in the comic books. Merlyn's true identity in the comics is Arthur King. The name Arthur is briefly mentioned in the show when Malcolm talks about his son Tommy wanting a puppy and naming it Arthur. Tommy wanted to name the dog in honor of King Arthur, since they were the Merlyn family, in reference to the great wizard Merlin.
In the comics, Arthur takes on the stage name of Merlyn the Magician. This is referenced in Arrow when he is given the name "Al Sa-Her" by Nyssa during his training with the League of Assassins. The name is Arabic for "The Magician." She gives him this name after he pulls a coin out of her ear, a trick he would perform for his son. Some of Merlyn's other aliases in Arrow include "The Well-Dressed Man" - his name before being revealed as Tommy's father in the show - and "The Dark Archer", before taking on the mantle of Ra's al Ghul.
Merlyn is a card-carrying member of several villain teams in the comics and television show. He started out as a member of the League of Assassins (and became their leader in Arrow), but after failing to take down Batman, Merlyn became their target. Next, he joined up with Queen Bee as part of her Anti-Justice League (a name that strikes fear into the hearts of the team, we're sure). After failing on that team, he joins the 100 in their quest to kill Black Lightening. He went on to join Deadshot's Killer Elite, a team of super assassins. He then joined the Secret Society of Supervillains.
In Arrow, Merlyn is a part of the League of Assassins and ends up on their bad side before becoming their leader. In his upcoming television appearance, Merlyn is also going to be a member of the Legion of Doom in DC's Legends of Tomorrow second season. Hopefully he won't fail as hard in that team as he has in just about every other time. As long as he gets out of this one without a target on his back, it'll be a welcome improvement.
Cupid, the murderous archer obsessed with Green Arrow, has appeared both in the television show and the comics. However, she has never interacted with Merlyn in Arrow. Thank God for Merlyn, because the results of their meeting in the comic books did not end well for him in the slightest.
During the events of Green Arrow and Black Canary, Merlyn has a run-in with the duo and is thrown in jail. After getting released, he's kidnapped and drugged by Cupid. She sets up a trap intended to trick the Green Arrow into killing Merlyn, but it backfires. To make her escape, Cupid slits Merlyn's throat. He's saved by Green Arrow and Black Canary rushing him to a hospital, but it is revealed an unknown amount of brain damage was caused by the attack. His vocal cords had also been slashed and it was believed Merlyn would never be able to talk again. So Malcolm better stay away from Cupid's arrows so we can keep hearing that sexy voice tell us lies left and right.
During the New 52, a relaunch of DC Comics' entire line that started in 2011, Tommy Merlyn is introduced as a supporting character in Arrow #0 (2012). However, this version takes a departure from the show, making Tommy, rather than his father Malcolm, the big bad archer.
The New 52 version of Tommy was a childhood friend of Oliver Queen. He did clerical work on an oil rig under the order of Oliver's father, and it proved to be the perfect place to throw wild parties. Unfortunately, a group of oil-thieves crash one of his parties. Even worse, when Oliver tries to save the day, he accidentally sets off a detonator that kills everyone. This would have included our "hero," but Tommy saves him at the last second, getting badly burned in the process. He blames Oliver for everyone dying and says his recklessness would get even more people killed in the future. Tommy falls into a coma and ends up being cared for on a pacific island monastery for a year before waking up. He later becomes the mercenary Merlyn.
John Barrowman loves his character so much that he teamed up with his sister, Carole Barrowman, to write a comic book series about him. The two previously wrote the young adult novel Hollow Earth together and wrote stories about Torchwood, another show that Barrowman starred in. The digital series, Arrow: The Dark Archer, is a tie-in to the Arrowverse and explores Merlyn's role as the head of the League of Assassins.
John and Carole Barrowman talked more in-depth about the tie-in comic book to TV Insider. John commented that the book "opens between Seasons 3 and 4 of the TV show and then we flashback. Readers will learn about a younger Malcolm and how his past is… well, killing him." Carole adds that the series is "set in places familiar to Arrow and DC fans like Corto Maltese and Nanda Parbat, but readers will see those places from quite different perspectives. Fans will also learn who Malcolm was before he met Rebecca, the love of his life."
Before appearing on Arrow, the deadly Merlyn appears in the DC animated short, DC Showcase: Green Arrow (2010). This was a bonus feature on Superman/Batman Apocalypse (2010). He is hired by Count Vertigo to kill his niece, Princess Perdita, in order to prevent her from becoming the queen of Vlatava. Of course, he's confronted by Green Arrow, who is tipped off that something is off when he noticed Merlyn entering an airport. During their duel in the short, Merlyn mentions how the Green Arrow lost every duel they've ever had. However, thanks to a lot of practice, he's bested by one of Green Arrow's trick arrows incapacitating him.
Merlyn is voiced by Malcolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange, Halloween), which may be why he was named "Malcolm" Merlyn in the television show. Another bonus fun fact: Green Arrow is voiced by Neal McDonough (Captain America: The First Avenger, Minority Report), who would go on to play Damien Darhk, the main antagonist in Arrow's fourth season.
Prior to becoming more well-known during his run on Arrow, Merlyn did appear on the small-screen a couple of times before. In the popular cartoon series Justice League Unlimited (2001-2006) he made a brief cameo. Blink and you may miss it, but he appears in the episode "Dead Reckoning." He is seated in the third row during a meeting of Gorilla Grodd's Secret Society.
Merlyn becomes "Vordigan" during his appearance in two episodes of the Superman show Smallville (2001-2011). Ads referred to him for the first time ever as "The Dark Archer." Played by Steve Bacic (X2: X-Men United, Andromeda), he appears during the ninth season of the show. He is a member of the Injustice League who shoots Lois Lane in the shoulder with an arrow, attacks Chloe, and kidnaps Mia Dearden. With the combined efforts of Clark Kent and Oliver Queen, the two manage to rescue Mia. Vordigan is later assigned to assassinate Green Arrow.
Merlyn has made a couple appearances in video games that are pretty easy to miss. He shows up in Green Arrow's S.T.A.R. Labs Missions, pretending to be him by wearing the same costume. The mission involves Green Arrow beating Merlyn in a one-on-one archery duel. Maybe we'll see him in the sequel to the game as a fully playable character.
John Barrowmen's likeness is used when Malcolm Merlyn appears as a Super Heroes minifigure in the Arrow DLC pack for LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham. This downloadable content includes an Arrow level taking place on the island of Lian Yu, which you can initially playthrough with Oliver (voiced by Stephen Amell) and Slade Wilson. Other Arrowverse characters who show up include Diggle, Felicity, Canary, Huntress, and Roy Harper.
Barrowman also shows up in the Lego Dimensions Doctor Who related pack as his character Jack Harkness. The two Lego figures share the same headpiece since they are played by the same actor.
John Barrowman plays Malcolm regularly on Arrow (and soon on the other Arrowverse shows as well) and writes a comic book series about him as well. So, he's probably one of the best people to ask about Malcolm's character. Is he really a big bad in the Arrowverse? Barrowman believes he's really a "misunderstood hero".
In an interview with Comic Book Resources, he comments that Malcolm "...has everyone’s best intentions at heart, although he might not go about what he does in the proper way. I would also argue that statement because everything that Malcolm Merlyn has done, if you go back and look at it, Oliver Queen has done it, too. Oliver has manipulated people. He’s held people hostage. He’s either killed or injured people to facilitate his own agenda or to help others. That’s exactly what Malcolm Merlyn does. However, Malcolm doesn’t have the team of people around him to make him think that it’s okay. So, that’s why I call him a misunderstood hero."
The surprising reveal that Malcolm Merlyn is Thea Queen's biological father was not taken from any comic book, but because of John Barrowman's husband. Apparently, during a meeting between the creator of Arrow Andrew Kreisberg, John Barrowman, and his husband Scott Gill, the three talked about future events regarding Merlyn. In an interview with Collider, John Barrowman set the scene: "They [Kreisberg and Gill] were discussing different aspects, and my husband said, 'Why don’t you make him Thea’s father?'"
Barrowman commented further about his interest in the idea during the interview, stating, "With the sci-fi background I have, all of these twists and turns are great. It’s like a saga. So, that’s how it started." Kreisberg went back to the writers with Scott's idea and, if you've seen the show, you know they went along with it and made it a big part of Malcolm's character. It helps that the two actors have a good, humorous chemistry with each other. And speaking of humor...
John Barrowman is a funny guy, both on camera and off. Much to the chagrin of some of his fellow co-stars, he is the biggest prankster on the set of Arrow. MTV lists several of his pranks, but some of his more memorable ones include flashing his butt during a "Family Photo" while the rest of the cast attempt to be serious; sticking his tongue out and getting uncomfortably close to fellow actors faces during selfies; and making a compilation picture of the photos Stephen Amell released of the casts' early roles.
The off-screen relationship between Barrowman and Willa Holland, who plays Thea, is a close one that also leads to a lot of laughs. In the same interview, Barrowman mentions how "I used to watch Willa on The O.C., as an avid fan, when my niece was growing up. That was our show that we would connect with and watch together.... She’s a wonderful young actress. It’s funny ‘cause she’s also got a really out there sense of humor, just like me. When she and I are on set together, we’ve actually said to each other, 'We’re gonna have to rein this in and keep it under control.' The camera stops and we’re just nuts."
Malcolm Merlyn was already an important figure in the Arrowverse, but he had only been on the Arrow show. That's about to change as Merlyn joins the new Legion of Doom in Legends of Tomorrow Season 2. The supervillain group will consist of Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman), Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough), Reverse-Flash (Matt Letscher), and Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller). This major super villain team-up is bound to cause troubles for all of our heroes.
Barrowman previously inked a deal to appear on every DC Comics CW superhero show, including Legends of Tomorrow, Arrow, The Flash, and possibly even Supergirl as it heads over to The CW. Wentworth Miller penned a similar deal, which represented to producer Greg Berlanti, according to a comment made to TV Line, "What it really emulates to us is the comic books themselves, where there really are a cast of characters. In success, we hope to continue with other characters finding their way across all the shows.”